A Glimmer Of Hope? More Info On The Job Report That Showed 339,000 Jobs Added In May, Despite Fed Rate Hikes

Written By BlabberBuzz | Saturday, 03 June 2023 01:15
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May's Bureau of Labor Statistics employment report revealed that the economy exceeded expectations, adding 339,000 jobs, indicating a solid labor market despite the Federal Reserve's rate hikes.

The job growth number was significantly higher than predicted, and the job numbers for the previous two months also increased by a combined 93,000.

The monthly job growth has averaged over 280,000 for the past three months, indicating economic strength. However, the household survey, conducted separately, was a bit more of a mixed bag. The unemployment rate rose three-tenths of a percentage point to 3.7%, which is still historically low. Additionally, average hourly earnings growth decelerated in May. The difference between the two surveys was partly due to a decline in self-employed workers, such as contractors, who aren't included in the establishment survey.

"The data show that job growth is continuing at a rapid pace, but wage pressures are not building," said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High-Frequency Economics. "While payrolls accelerated for a second month, we think the wage data, in particular, will give the Fed room to hold policy steady at the upcoming meeting."

Friday's report is being scrutinized as it comes against several major economic developments, including the Fed's rate hikes, banking sector turmoil, and a weakened housing market. The employment report's household survey found that the number of unemployed persons rose by 440,000 to 6.1 million. The labor force participation rate held steady from the month before at 62.6% in May, and the employment-population ratio was little changed at 60.3%.


Despite the Fed's efforts to slow commerce to bring down inflation, the unemployment rate has only ranged from 3.4% to 3.7% since March 2022, near the lowest rates of the past half-century. A more robust jobs report shows that rate hikes aren't harming the labor market as much as expected and could cause the Fed to lean toward another rate hike later this month.


Since March of last year, the Fed has been hiking rates to drive down inflation, which has been slowing annually. Earlier this month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced inflation fell slightly to 4.9% in the year ending in April in an update to the consumer price index, the lowest such rate since May 2021.

Meanwhile, the banking sector is still under the microscope following the sudden failure of Silicon Valley Bank back in March. SVB's downfall acted as a bit of a domino, leading to a few other banks collapsing and some regional banks seeing their stock values plunge. The federal government was able to step in and impede the worst of the fallout. However, economists are still closely watching the banking system given the overall volatility of the economy amid the Fed's rate hiking.


While the broader economy is not in a recession, many experts contend that the housing market is. Home prices are falling, indicating how much the market has cooled since its red-hot zenith in 2020 when the Fed slashed rates to near-zero, and mortgage rates fell in response. As of Thursday, the average rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage was 6.79%, according to Freddie Mac. That number is up from a recent low of just under 6.1% registered in early February and up from about 3.1% at the start of last year. Mortgage rates are now the highest they have been since November.

Despite the flailing housing market, construction jobs have seemingly defied gravity. Friday's report found that 25,000 new construction jobs were added in May, and over the prior year, construction had added an average of 17,000 jobs per month.